ACTIVATE Conference talk audience

In 20 years, search logic has evolved from word matching, to probability calculation, to machine learning. For all that maturation, search is still missing a vital element of intelligence: Emotion.

People are drawn to products by emotion, not just logic, so search results must also emote. The ability to emote itself creates intelligence, says Angel Maldonado, founder of Empathy.co, whose customers include Carrefour, Desigual, Office Depot, Penguin Random House, and Vodafone.

Viewed another way, Maldonado says, the three-point objective of traditional search – accuracy, speed, and relevance – must give way to a mind-and-body model that navigates something more than relevance. “Let’s have a capability to negotiate feelings,” Maldonado says.

Search engineers have long fought to ensure user trust. But how might engineers ensure joy?

Faces emote. And our brains react differently to faces than to objects and places. What is the current basis of search? Objects, not faces. So how do we build a user experience that transcends the confined space of objects? One solution, Maldonado said, is a category of objects that trick the brain into seeing faces.

With objects such as these in hand, Empathy.co proceeds to create products by providing for an event system, front-end framework, controls, and multivariate tools.

The result: An e-commerce site that merchandises an emotional experience as well as the product. Mere product item boosts become behavioral boosts when top-ranked and featured items are resized and subtly animated.

Maldonado looks to neuroscientists such as Antonio Damasio for insights. One such inspiration is, quite simply, “Whether or not innovation works depends upon how we feel about it.”

“Search is more than AI, as we are more than a brain,” Maldonado reminds us. “Search is also a mind, and a body.”